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Russian traveller finds China at hand to explore

08-15-2012 14:19 BJT

by Igor Serebryne

MOSCOW, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- For Anton Krotov, China Tourism Year started in 2004 and won't finish until the end of 2012 at least.

Krotov, a 36-year-old founder of what he calls the Free Travels Academy in Russia, believes simpletons pay for their travel while a real devoted explorer may make a living by taking the roads less travelled.

He proves it with his personal experience, selling stories about his trips and rarely paying for them.


Born in a family of Moscow writers, Krotov naturally acquired his parents' devotion to express himself in creative writing. He quit college after two years' studies since "going to the institute prevented me from exploring the country," according to Krotov.

Apart from trips in Russia, China is among his favorite destinations. He toured China by road and railway in 2004 and 2008 and published a book titled "China: the very different country."x In 2004, Krotov roamed China for the first time, covering 10,000 km mainly by hitch-hiking, from Urumchi in the northwest to Hailar in the northeast.

Four years later, he took another 18-day trip to China, as the country "presents an infinite field for explorations." The latest journey started from Manzhouli, through Harbin, Beijing, Shanghai, and to China's borders with Laos.

He used all means of transportation available: cars, trucks, local trains, buses, even a donkey-driven cart.


"I am interested in observing the daily life of local people rather than in sightseeing. So I visited homes, factories, rural communities, flea markets," Krotov told Xinhua.

Though Krotov cannot speak Chinese, he always managed to reach his destinations. "You approach a driver, tell him a single word, Xi'an, for instance, and the language barrier is transcended," he said.

He recalled the rides in Dongfeng trucks when he and the drivers remained silent for hours, or they talked in their own languages, caring little whether the other understood it or not.

Krotov was excited to notice that he was not the lonely traveller on the Chinese roads. On the borders between Kazakhstan and China's Xinjiang, he met an English-speaking Chinese who was cycling all the way from England to his home in Shanghai.

"People in various countries are all of a piece," the Chinese cyclist told Krotov when asked whether free travels in China were possible.

"These were the only words I could understand during my entire adventure," Krotov said.


Being a "victim of dromomania," Krotov converted his Moscow apartment into a tourist hub in the early 1990s. Everyone could knock his door and ask for a night of free lodging.

Devoted travellers from around the country shared their personal experience with the like-minded fellows in the hub. The casual meetings gradually evolved into what he titled the Free Travels Academy and later, into the Home For Everyone project.

Since the first Home For Everyone opened in the city of Irkutsk in Southern Siberia in 2006, Krotov has founded six more homes in Russia and abroad.

The eighth one is to be opened in the Chinese city of Kunming in October, Krotov said. He has already inked a short-term rent deal with a local house owner.

It will be Krotov's third visit to China where he is going to stay for two months.

"Travelling alone in China is absolutely feasible, you don't have to be well-to-do to explore that country," Krotov said. "China is yours to explore."



Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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